Thursday, August 16, 2012

Zumba is fun & works! Here's proof!

 Article by ACE Fitness

By Mary Luettgen, M.S., John P. Porcari, Ph.D., Carl Foster, Ph.D., Richard Mikat, Ph.D., and Jose Rodriguez-Morroyo, Ph.D.

 Zumba fitness has quickly grown to one of the most popular group exercise classes on the planet. In fact, the Latin-dance inspired workout is reportedly performed by more than 12 million people at 110,000 sites, in 125 countries around the world.

“Ditch the Workout – Join the Party!” That’s the marketing slogan for Zumba fitness, which attracts exercisers with a fun fusion of dance moves from styles like Salsa, Merengue, Reggaeton and Flamenco, and the sort of choreography you might see in a nightclub.

“Historically, aerobic dance was always like paint by the numbers,” says John Porcari, Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. “I think sometimes people get frustrated if dance steps get too intricate and complicated. But Zumba fitness leaves more room for interpretation. And it’s non-judgmental. You don’t have to move exactly like the instructor. It’s more like dancing in a club—people can just move the way they want.”

Just because Zumba fitness is fun, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an effective workout. Despite its immense popularity, to date very little research has been done to document the potential benefits of this form of aerobic dance. So the American Council on Exercise, the nation's Workout Watchdog®, commissioned Dr. Porcari and his team of exercise scientists to determine whether Zumba fitness provides a workout, a party or both.

The Study

Led by Porcari and Mary Luettgen, M.S., researchers from the University’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science set out to determine the average exercise intensity and energy expenditure during a typical Zumba fitness class. First they recruited 19 healthy female volunteers, ages 18 to 22, all of whom had previous experience participating in Zumba classes.

To establish a baseline of fitness for the study subjects, each performed a maximal treadmill test that measured heart rate (HR) and oxygen consumption VO2. This test also enabled researchers to develop individual linear regression equations for each subject to predict their VO2 based on HR readings. This was key because standard metabolic testing gear is bulky and wearing it would encumber the subjects’ ability to dance and properly participate in the Zumba class.

After the treadmill testing, each subject participated in a single Zumba session while equipped with a heart-rate monitor. While the class length varied from 32 to 52 minutes depending on which day it was conducted, the same Zumba-certified instructor taught all of the sessions.

The Results

After crunching the resulting data, researchers found that participating in a single Zumba fitness class burned an average of 369 calories or about 9.5 kcal per minute.

The average HR was 154 beats per minute (bpm), which is roughly 80 percent of the average predicted HRmax for the subjects. Accepted fitness industry guidelines suggest exercising in the range of 64 percent to 94 percent of HRmax to improve cardio endurance, so Zumba meets those requirements.

“If we look at the heart-rate monitor strips from the Zumba fitness session, they kind of look like interval workouts, going back and forth between high intensity and low intensity,” says lead researcher Mary Luettgen, M.S. “Because of that, with Zumba you burn a lot of extra calories compared to a steady-state exercise like jogging.”

As for the average estimated percentage of VO2max, the subjects averaged 64 percent of VO2max, which is well within industry recommendations of 40 percent to 85 percent of VO2max for improving cardio endurance.

Of particular note is that HRmax and VO2max responses for all of the subjects fell within the range of industry guidelines, despite the fact that there was a wide range of fitness levels among the subjects.

The Bottom Line

Zumba fitness may feel like a party, but this research suggests that it’s also a highly effective workout.

“It’s a total-body exercise—a good, high-energy aerobic workout,” explains Dr. Porcari. “Zumba fitness is also good for core strengthening and flexibility gains because there are lots of hip and midsection movements.”

With subjects burning an average of 369 calories per class, Zumba fitness is also a fine choice for those who are looking to drop a few pounds or maintain their current weight levels. In comparison with other exercises tested in the past by the University’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science, Zumba burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga.

“The surprising thing is that it doesn’t matter what fitness level you’re at—our research shows that in Zumba classes everyone is working out at the zone that’s recommended for improving cardio health,” says Luettgen. “Both fit people and less-fit people are going to get an equally good workout.”

Bottom line, Zumba fitness is an effective interval-style, full-body workout with built-in variety because every class and every instructor is slightly different. Equally important is the notion that Zumba classes are entertaining, which means exercisers are busy burning calories and getting fit while enjoying the fun of Latin dancing.

Sounds like our kind of party.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fitness is not just for looks

Eating right, exercising and staying healthy are the things that we know we should be doing.  There is proof at every turn about how much it helps us in life.  I have said it before and I'll say it again that exercise is the fountain of youth.  Aging is inevitable and most people resolve that they should feel a certain way by the time they get to a certain age and accept it.  That's just not for me.  I have had the healthiest body in my 40's than I did in my 20's and 30's.

That being said, I found out just how good taking care of yourself can be when I went to a Quick Trip in Lee's Summit the other day to get gas for my car.  This situation is on the list of my most embarrassing moments, but I am going to share it because it shed some light on the benefits of a healthy life. 

I had been driving for about 2 1/2 hours straight when I stopped.  My legs are usually a little stiff, and I have a knee that doesn't completely bend the full range of motion (that's another story).  I proceeded to connect the gas hose with the car and clean my windshield while trying to stretch my stiff muscles.  Walking to the back of the car (remember that QT's are full of cars and people) I tried to step over the hose and caught my right foot which then caught my left foot on the hose.  There was no slow motion about this.  The next thing I knew  I was on the ground.  I immediately jumped up as people were horrified and asking if I was alright.  I told them that I was more embarrassed than hurt.

I finished gassing up and pulled the car to a parking spot.  It was then that I started assessing the situation.  My left shoulder muscles hurt, but not to where I thought anything was torn.  My hands hurt, but no scrapes.  The way that I landed was on my hands just like someone who was doing the worm would land.  Hands, stomach, legs, feet.  When I went down I just landed like I was going to do a push up. I did a Zumba class that night and felt great after.

Here is my point.  I am in the best shape of my life since high school.  I truly believe that if I weren't where I am today that I would have surely hit my face or busted my head.  My reaction was fast without thinking and my body was strong enough to take the impact.  Plus, the recovery time for when I do get injuries here and there is much faster!

Remember that fitness and eating well are not just for looks.  As we age we need to take care of ourselves so that we can have the best life possible.  That means all of the little things that can be taken for granted, such as, playing with our grandchildren, walking, standing, sitting, going on fun trips etc...

Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

Stronger, Healthier, Happier and Loving Life